All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Luke 10:17-24
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight. O Lord, My strength and my redeemer. Amen.
The church is called to go into the world and preach the gospel, making disciples and baptizing in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We are wrapping up our second venture since the start of my tenure to support this call and while it is likely that none of us will be called into international missions, we all want be striving to take part in the great commission to the best of our ability and supporting those who are reaching the far ends of the earth. We can do this by sharing the gospel with a friend or family member who is hurting, supporting local organizations that help the most vulnerable in society heal physically, mentally, and spiritually, or supporting international missionary efforts. Each of these calls are critical.
This morning as we trace our way through the Gospel lesson we will be reminded of this calling. We will be reminded of how we must go into the world to preach the gospel of Christ, but that when we find success, we must not celebrate in ourselves, but wear humility. Humility because we know that it is not because of us that our efforts were successful, but Christ in us. And in this humility we are reminded that our joy is found not here on earth, but in the fact that we know God, through Christ, and that our names are written in the book of heaven.
While some will be called to full time ministry, others might be called to different tasks, the Christian is both to go into the world, and while they are going into the world be set to this task of making disciples. And is where we meet 72 disciples this morning, they have done just that. They have gone into the world, they have preached, they have caste out demons in the name of Christ and they are amazed at the efficacy of His name. For Christ’s name is mighty, and it is in Christ that we can find the fullness of healing from abuse, heartache, illness, sorrow, worldly woes. It is in Christ that we can find fulness, joy, and the love which we are often denied in the world and so desperately need.
We rejoice to live in a time of modern medicine, where we can go to the doctor and find a cure for the pains and sickness which ail us. We rejoice that infant mortality is down and life expectancy is up, but the downside of this goodness is that we often forget that our life is found in Christ, that it is God that animates the world, and allows the blood to continue to pump through hearts, so we still go to doctors, but we must also remember the source of all life. We must remember who it is that heals us when our bodies are broken. Likewise, when we are in the depths of pain or emotional turmoil from the way in which the world around us beats us up, we want to seek help. In that help let us always remember that we only find completeness in Christ. It is Christ alone that heals, it is Christ alone that castes away the demons that haunt us. It is Christ alone that saves us.
So lean on a friend, go to the doctor, talk to a counselor, but cling dearly to Christ because he will carry us through the darkness, heal our pain, and bring us to joy in the heavenly kingdom.
The 72 rejoice – and Christ senses an inclination towards pride here. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t exceedingly pleased with how Operation Christmas Child went. I am glad it got so many people engaged, I was glad to see the ladies who organized it do such a good job. In this though, I need to take heed of what Christ is saying here – humility is needed for all who minister in Christ. It is not the individual who witnesses, it is not the missionary who or the minister who preaches that causes the redemption. It is Christ alone.
Yes, we each play an important role, but we play it by clinging more and more tightly to Christ. We play our parts, by finding and placing our dependency all upon Christ that we would be ever growing in Him.
I hope and pray that Operation Christmas Child acted to invigorate your desire to take part in the great commission, both locally and internationally. I hope and pray that the humble work which we undertook, will bless the nations for the kingdom of heaven. And I hope that you are as excited about how it went as I am, and I hope that you will want to continue to bless the world for the sake of Christ. I also hope you are doing this because you desire that Christ would be glorified. In a Christ centered church, which is what we are striving to be – the hearts and minds of the congregation are given to this task of missions. Each of us is called to glorify God in Christ, with a humble heart.
So, let us give thanks for how God is using All Saints, and each of us individually, but let us be humble in this. Perhaps my favorite passage about this comes from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians – I (that is Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. For yes! God uses us, but we must always remember that the growth comes from God. We must also have the humbleness of heart that Christ is calling the disciples to, and we must always remember that it is God who is giving us the growth.
Satan wanted the glory for himself – a corrupt heart will always want the glory for themselves, but our call as Christians is to do all things to the glory of God. Perhaps the best articulation of this comes from the Westminster Catechism of faith, which starts with the following question – what is the chief end of man? And answers – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
We are often tempted like Satan to want to have all the glory for ourselves. It is tempting when the church is successful, when she is growing to become puffed up with pride – but we must remember that it is God that is giving us the growth. It is God that is working through his faithful servants to draw more people unto him. It is tempting to say, especially as a pastor, “ah-ha! Look at what I have done!” No, we give thanks for all that God is doing. We give thanks to be partakers of his work.
I often come back to the Catechism’s answer – and I think it is interesting the way the writers penned it – to glorify God come first and to enjoy him forever comes second. I think we learn to enjoy God, by glorifying him and we glorify him by doing his work. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of joining several of you, first in studying the word of God, and then helping with the last few boxes. To be honest, I wasn’t as much help as others – but I think we had fun, we had fun packing boxes, I enjoyed watching those who were packing work together, and we had fun enjoying each other’s company. At the center of what we were doing was work to glorify God, and I suspect all that we set our mind to yesterday was so enjoyable because he we learning and striving for his glory, not our own.
Satan will always long for the glory to be his own, and will tempt God’s faithful people into turning away from glorifying God to seek the glory for themselves. Let us resist his temptation. Instead, especially in success, give thanks to God. Have humble hearts, and be set to persevering in the task ahead of us.
I do pray and hope that this project has energized you all for the sake of the Gospel. Soon we will be entering into Advent, and I want to challege you all to be in prayer that the Lord would show us how we can be reaching Prescott, and the world for the sake of the gospel. I hope that we would be focusing on the tasks that lie ahead of us.
Here, I want to make a quick side statement – I did not see something that made me think “man, I need to talk to folks about humility.” But this is a warning that we always need to hear, and it was the text assigned for this Sunday. I do think we have been faithfully doing the tasks that the Lord has called us to, but I don’t want us to be tempted into thinking “Wow! Look at what Fr. Ian has been doing for our church!” Or “This person or that person has really made the church grow!” Instead, we want to have the mindset that is constantly seeking to glorify God and praying that God would give us the growth. I also want to say that I am so very grateful and thoroughly impressed with how everyone stepped up to help with this latest outreach project.
Christ reminds us of our truest place of joy – in the 20th verse Christ turns the 72’s focus away from the works which they have done and unto the heavenly vision. Least we are tempted into becoming focused on ourselves, let us always rejoice about the work that Christ has already done in us. Christ has already written our names in the book of heaven. It is this eternal promise that is our place of hope, our place of joy.
Let us rejoice always for this incredible promise, the promise that one day all things will be made right, and that we will walk with God in the restored kingdom. Let us rejoice that even though we have all sinned, that we have all fallen short of the glory of God – that despite this, In Christ we have found forgiveness. For in Christ we are pardoned for our pride, our vainglory, for our lusts, for our selfishness, for our greed, for every sin that has separated us from God and from the rest of humanity, every hurtful thing we have done. It has all been wiped away – and our relationship with God is restored so that we can live at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is in the humility of heart and the joy of being pardoned men and women whose names are written in the book of heaven, It is in Christ that our names are written in the book of heaven. Let us therefore be rejuvenated for the task of propagating the gospel. It is this joy that we wish to share with all people, it is this joy that we want others to experience.
J.C. Ryle is helpful here as he summarizes this passage: The distinction here drawn between grace and gifts is one of deep importance, and often and sadly overlooked in the present day. Gifts, such as mental vigor, vast memory, striking eloquence, ability in argument, power in reasoning, are often unduly valued by those who possess them, and unduly admired by those who possess them not. These things ought not so to be. Men forget that gifts without grace save no one’s soul, and are the characteristic of Satan himself. Grace, on the contrary, is an everlasting inheritance, and, lowly and despised as its possessor may be, will land him safe in glory He that has gifts without grace is dead in sins, however splendid his gifts may be. But he that has grace without gifts is alive to God, however unlearned and ignorant he may appear to man. And “a living dog is better than a dead lion.”… Let us never rest until we have the witness of the Spirit within us that we are “washed, and sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 6:11.) Let us seek to know that “our names are written in heaven,” and that we are really one with Christ and Christ in us. Let us strive to be “epistles of Christ known and read of all men,” and to show by our meekness, and charity, and faith, and spiritual-mindedness, that we are the children of God.
The lesson then shifts its focus from Christ’s rebuking reminder to the 72 to him rejoicing for the way that the Father works. It is interesting – this is the only time in the gospel that we see Christ rejoice.
He rejoices for the salvation received by the poor and the lowly, and when we come to Christ we are poor, we are lowly in spirit. For this is the posture that we need to see our sin, to see our need for a savior, and to receive him in our life. Let us not be puffed up and conceited, but remember that our wealth is stored up in heaven. For many would mock the Christian faith, and make false caricatures of it. This is what Christ is rejoicing in! That the wise and well thought of, thought him foolish, while it is the poor and meek that have come to him.
Let us not grow indignant, but join with Christ’s rejoicing when the world would mock us for our faith. And they will mock us – they will mock the church for believing in God, they will mock Christians for pursuing sexual purity, they will mock the church for believing that morality is not subjective. They will mock the church for believing that it is through Christ we find our salvation, for believing that Christ is fully God and fully man! Believing that Christ died and on the third day rose again seems to be foolish. The world will scoff at the belief that the love of Christ is so compelling that it can change the life of a sinner such as me. It seems absurd that encountering him, can drive me to my knees and that in him, I would be raised up.
This attitude of scorn should not lead us to fear or anger – but we should imitate Christ! Rejoice! Rejoice for we know that God does not need us to defend him, God will humble the mighty and rise up the meek. So, let us preach the gospel always, let us not be afraid, but let us glorify him in all we do, knowing that Christ too was mocked, and the wise of his time thought him foolish.
No one knows who the Father is except the son – it is through Christ that we come to know who the Father is. It used to be that only popular culture would say that there are two Gods, one presented in the Old Testament and another in the New. Serious Biblical scholars and Christians would roll their eyes at this, yet know that the God revealed in the Old Testament is the same God revealed in the New. Now, even some popular Christian teachers are even saying that we need to unhitch the Old Testament from then New. But the whole of scripture gives a unified witness to the glory of God.
Perhaps one of the most amazing things about the Bible is how consistent its witness is. For the authorship of it spans some 1500 years. People are often scandalized by what they see as inconsistencies in the text. Yet, what should scandalize us is how consistent scripture is.
Over 20 authors, spanning over a millennium paint a consistent picture of a glorious God, who is a creator, who loves, who is just and merciful. The 66 books of varying genres in the Bible tell us a story of a rebellious humanity, and a promised redeemer who comes in Christ, who is promised to die and raise again, to make a nation of the nations, and draw a plethora of people, from varying backgrounds unified in him. Then we see this fulfilled.
What is scandalous about the Bible is how consistent it is! How, each story points us closer and close to this Christ, how this Christ is consistent with His Father, how revelation about him does not vary – but stays the same. For the God of the Old Testament promises his coming, and he comes. The God of the Old Testament angers with idolatry, and the abuse of people, Christ angers when seeing idolatry, and when the people are abused. Christ is just – Christ is merciful, God is just – God is merciful. They are the same God revealed to be Three in One and One in Three. Testified to through all time.
How amazing is the consistency of this witness?
And this is where Christ ends – for he knows that many before had expected him, and desired to see his coming. It was instead a hodgepodge group of fishermen and a tax collector and other lowly people who not only see him, but who get to wander the country with him and proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, calling people to repent and believe. It is then this group that goes our and starts the spread of this gospel to all nations. It was not the kings, nor the prestigious leaders of the time. But rather God works through the humble.
Let us not, therefore, be puffed up with pride. Last week, I mentioned in passing that the gospel is the great equalizer. That there is no person who walks on earth that is without sin, that every single person needs the grace which we find in Christ. This brings us before him in humility, it brings us to the foot of the cross with glad hearts, and sends out to do His will.
Let us remember that the goodly state of our soul in Christ is not because of some merit of our own, but because Christ has come to us, because Christ has worked in us, and because Christ has redeemed us.
It would be easy to think – ah – well, I am so much better than this person or that person, because I am a Christian. No, let us be humble before the throne of grace, so that we can reach that person. What a great and glorious thing it would be if our enemies, if those who have said fowl things about us, if those who have been cruel to us, might come to know the grace that we know? I can think of no greater thing than if those who have sought to do harm to me, could know the same mercy that I know, for I do not deserve the grace that I enjoy any more than they do. May they too repent, may they too come to enjoy God’s grace forever!
The Christian is called to humble service of our savior Christ. We are called to lay our pain, and trials, our heartache, and sorrow, our joys, and triumphs, our success, and pride all at the foot of the Christ, We are call to lay our sin before him and then go out from the cross to proclaim how Christ has set us free. For it is in Christ alone that we are made free, and this good news is often ignored by the world.
Let us take seriously the call to humbly go into the world and preach the good news to all people and all nations to make disciples and to baptize.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 1, p. 361). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.